I’m talking about economic superpowers here; so that disqualifies the USA. The USA is destined to become a gigantic version of North Korea: militaristic, belligerent, aggressive, with an army we can’t afford, and populated by vast swaths of ignorant impoverished peasants swayed by ridiculous propaganda. Our food-stamp population already doubles North Korea’s entire population (see the chart here). And Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to justify the conquest of Iraq is a prime example of preposterous propaganda.
Germany and China are economic superpowers because they have exchange-rate dominance. The Germans keep their European Union satellites enslaved via the euro. The Chinese have been transferring the USA’s industrial power to themselves via their yuan-dollar currency peg. Consequently, Germany and China have become what are called “surplus nations”, which is a nice way of saying “your rulers”.
Germany and China have trade surpluses because they have been able to tilt the playing field in their favor through currency machinations. Imagine a country like Greece or Portugal that gives up its weak currency and adopts the strong euro. What happens to their trade situation? All of a sudden, their exporters are quoting prices in euros, which means they have to compete head-to-head with the Germans on price. And if they aren’t as efficient as the Germans, then they lose market share.
Traditionally, when a country’s economy was in trouble, they would throw a nation-wide sale by devaluing their currency. By sprinkling extra currency around the world, they made their exports more affordable, enticed foreigners to come for cheap vacations, etc. But German satellites are not allowed to do that; they are not allowed to print euros.
So why don’t struggling EU countries ditch the euro, re-establish their own currencies, devalue, and live happily ever after? You might ask that same question of the USA.
Why doesn’t the USA break the yuan-dollar currency peg, stop the huge whirlpool of industries draining away to China, and restore its prosperity?
While that looks like a political question, I’m starting to believe that it is no such thing; that it is a question decided on a level above national politics. Just recently, we saw Speaker of the House John Boehner state that Beijing’s yuan-dollar currency peg was none of the US Government’s business (see my post here). And a few days ago, we saw German Chancellor Angela Merkel say (story here):
“No one should take it for granted that there will be peace and affluence in Europe in the next half century.”
Was that a threat to EU nations contemplating an escape from the euro? Maybe not, but then again, such things are rarely stated directly. But if there is a threat, then that would explain very nicely why EU countries are lashing themselves with austerity: because an escape attempt would bring even harsher measures.
Germany wins this smackdown because they can enforce stricter discipline than China. For all of their success in draining wealth from the USA, the Chinese still have not figured out how to prevent the USA from printing currency. And that allows the USA to rattle its chains.
China’s biggest problem is Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Bank. The Chinese and their multinational partners have obviously succeeded in purchasing Congress and the White House, but the Fed stubbornly insists on exercising sovereign powers on behalf of the American economy.
While QE2 did not restore robust growth to the US economy, it did force the Chinese to print more yuan to maintain their currency peg. And that created inflation in China, which raised the cost of sweatshop labor, and gave American domestic manufacturers some breathing room.
Without QE2, there would be Chinese officials in Washington right now dictating austerity terms just like the Germans in Athens.
And if a knucklehead like Rick Perry or Ron Paul gets their way with the Fed, then the above outcome will be a done deal.